After hearing the lamentable Rush Limbaugh refer to the “chickification of America,” because NFL football players wore pink to support breast cancer research (men have breasts too, you know, and also get cancer), I was fuming and determined to write about my anger and frustration.
In spite of that initial impulse, here’s what I’m NOT writing about today:
• October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone who was once in an abusive relationship (and if it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone, men included), I’m NOT writing about how important it is that society recognize the reality of how difficult it is to leave and to stay alive. I’m NOT writing about how 44 percent of all women murdered with guns in the U.S. are killed by a current or former intimate partner.
• More than 135,000 women became extremely poor in 2012—not just poor, but “extremely” poor—and people 65 and older are now more vulnerable to poverty, up significantly from 2011. Although my big fear is to end up eating cat food, I’m NOT writing about why women haven’t demanded compensatory Social Security for those whose “job” is to be a homemaker and mother, so they can survive old age. Nor am I writing about the growing economic disparity between those at the very top and everyone else, and its disproportionate impact on women.
• The United States is among only eight nations in the world who don’t give women paid maternity leave—it’s often unpaid if you get it at all without jeopardizing your job—and our need for universally available and affordable day care is an embarrassment among nations. But I’m NOT writing about how this affects women’s ability to hold gainful employment or complete their education and thus be economically independent.
• Women are not present at all on the boards of major corporations. Twitter has a seven-man board with no women; 36 percent of the 2,770 largest public companies have no women on their boards; and companies with women on their boards have better overall economic results. Yet I’m NOT writing about why women aren’t controlling and influencing all investment decisions based on this regrettable fact—although if we could get rid of apartheid, we should be able to get qualified women on corporate boards.
• While “half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time,” I am NOT writing about the callousness of those who refuse to make work pay a living wage, or who demand deficit reduction by penalizing the vulnerable with food stamp cuts, or who characterize those who need assistance as lazy and unmotivated “takers,” yet won’t support the education or child care that would allow self-sufficiency.
• Even as abortion and access to “women’s health services” are increasingly subject to ridiculous and onerous restrictions, I’m NOT writing about the difference it makes who appoints judges to federal courts—although it does.
As a political commentator, it’s enticing to address any of these issues and take both policy and political stands. But I decided to write about something bigger than issues or politics: the need to set an entirely new policy agenda. I believe that women, and men who respect women, are uniquely poised to make that happen.
My experience as a mediator has shown that when two polarized sides of a debate are dug in, there is room to head right down the middle and define a new way of moving forward.
Politicians are staking out ever-more-radical positions for niche constituencies, so I am sending out a clarion call to women of every political stripe: WE can demand a new agenda.
There are more of us. We live longer. We’re getting more educated. We already do whatever we have to do to take care of ourselves and our children. We make choices—not always good ones—and we live with the consequences. We have a collective voice, and it’s time to be heard.
Get involved. Demand, as a group along with your neighbors, to meet with elected officials at every level, and tell them you expect them to pay attention, or you will organize voters against them. If big business and the wealthy can influence public policy, organized and informed voters as a bloc can have an even greater impact.
We can’t leave it to anyone else. Change takes time. Results won’t come quickly. But we have to be present and involved, invested for the long haul.
Get informed. Educate others. Consider running for office. Vote in EVERY election, no matter how small or local. Contrary to conspiracy theories, votes do count!
Don’t get suckered in by slick slogans designed to “sell” a candidate with sound bites that don’t really inform.
Visit nonpartisan websites like the League of Women Voters or No Labels. Spend as much time on this as you do playing computer games.
Bottom line: I think it’s time for a women’s strike.
What if, for just two days, women (and the men who support them) across the country stayed home from work, didn’t cook or clean, didn’t deliver a tray of drinks, didn’t operate the cash register, didn’t re-hang clothes on the racks, didn’t make appointments, didn’t help people fill out forms, didn’t sell anyone’s home or didn’t process a bank deposit.
What if a few agenda items—paid maternity leave, universal child care, comparable equal pay, a raised minimum wage, and greater representation where decisions are made—were highlighted as SO important they must no longer be ignored?
If all else fails, there’s always the Lysistrata strategy!
This is adapted from a speech given to the Sun City, Palm Desert Democratic Club on Oct. 28, 2013.